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Articles of 2010

WHO YA LIKE? Glen Johnson-Allan Green

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Hard-hitting, world-ranked Allan Green and veteran contender and former world champ Glen “The Road Warrior Johnson participated in a national media conference call to discuss their must-win Super Six World Boxing Classic bout on Saturday, Nov. 6, live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) from MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. Green and Johnson were also joined on the call by promoter Lou DiBella.

The winner of the 12-rounder between Green (29-2, 20 KOs), of Tulsa, Okla., and the Jamaican-born Johnson (50-14-2, 34 KOs), of Miami, Fla., will earn a spot in the tournament Semifnals.

A veteran contender and former light heavyweight world champion, Johnson is a replacement for the injured Mikkel Kessler.

Green, who was outclassed in his Group Stage 2 bout against Andre Ward, can overcome his uninspired performance that he blamed on over-training with a win over Johnson in Group Stage 3. Green, who replaced the injured Jermain Taylor, was already in intense training camp for Kessler and was not deterred by the change in opponent. No matter the opposition, Green needs to win in Group Stage 3 to advance.

Johnson, who has appeared in seven world title fights and has defeated some of the best prizefighters of this era, including boxing legends Roy Jones, Jr., and Antonio Tarver, now has an opportunity to reestablish himself as one of the world’s elite prizefighters.

In the second half of the excellent Nov. 6 SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING doubleheader, undefeated World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight champion Juan Manuel “JuanMa Lopez (29-0, 26 KOs) of Puerto Rico will defend his title against two-division world champion Rafael Marquez (39-5, 35 KOs) of Mexico City.

What the fighters and DiBella had to say on Thursday:

DIBELLA: “Unfortunately, we’ve faced a lot of challenges in this tournament, but I want to commend SHOWTIME for sticking with it and finishing out this tournament. I think it’s necessary. I think the format proved itself to work by virtue of how often the favorite has changed, by how many times guys who have lost matches and went on to win the next. You just can’t anticipate injuries and the kind of things that happen in our sport. But I’m very happy that Ken (Hershman) elected to continue with the tournament. It’s presented a tremendous opportunity to Allan and Glen Johnson because this fight takes on enormous significance with the winner having the opportunity to get into the Semifinals.

“Allan is one of the best 168-pounders in the world, but he’s coming off one of the poorest performances he’s had in a while and he has a lot to prove in this fight. He’s gone back to the drawing board, he’s made changes in his corner, and I know he’s more committed than ever.

GREEN: “I’m just looking forward to Nov. 6. I’m just glad to get back in the ring. I really don’t have to prove anything to myself. I just have to prove myself to the fans.

JOHNSON: “I’m extremely excited about the opportunity. I thank SHOWTIME for making me a part of this prestigious event. I’m just happy to be a part of it.

Glen, how do you expect dropping down to 168 to affect you and what was your reaction to being offered to join the tournament?

JOHNSON: “My first reaction was ‘Wow, what a great opportunity.’ This is, I think, the best tournament in boxing. When the possibility to be a part of it came up I was extremely excited. I immediately started doing what I need to do to get down to the weight. I haven’t done 168 pounds in like 10 years, so I just have to commit myself and go to work. This is what I do. This is my job, this is how I get paid. This is how I eat. That’s how I look at it. I just went about my business to take care of my job.

Allan, how disappointed were you in the loss to Andre Ward?

GREEN: “It was very disappointing. I had to make a lot of changes, but going into the fight, I knew I was ill-prepared. I knew things weren’t going to be right. I’m just eager to get back in the ring and I just had to make some changes. I had to go back to my roots and do everything right the way I used to. Now I feel great and I’m looking forward to Nov. 6.

How are you going to deal with Glen Johnson’s activity level?

GREEN: “I know Glen very well; Glen’s a friend of mine. He’s one of the first top guys I actually sparred with coming up. He’s not an easy guy to fight by any means. He’s not an easy fight for anybody. But I have my own game plan and I’m not going to reveal that.

Glen, what did you gain from Green’s performance against Andre Ward?

JOHNSON: “I watched that fight once and that was right when it happened. As Allan just alluded to, Allan and I are friends. I’ve known him for a long time and I know that was not the Allan Green that I know. I’ve sparred with him many, many times. He’s helped me get ready for my fights and I’ve helped him get ready for his fights. I know that wasn’t the Allan Green that I know. I didn’t take much away from that. I didn’t give it that much thought. I thought, maybe he had some problem or something. I didn’t watch it another time – it was painful for me to watch it the first time. I knew something was wrong so I didn’t look at it again.

Glen, how have you managed to maintain such a high level of performance?

JOHNSON: “I don’t know. I’ve been asked that question a lot. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I don’t smoke and I don’t abuse my body. Maybe it’s because I don’t take drugs or drink. Maybe it’s because I train all the time and try to get better. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things. All I am is thankful and grateful that it happens to me and for me.

Allan, do you feel extra pressure to perform well in this fight after the performance to Andre Ward?

GREEN: “I knew going into that fight that I was ill-prepared. I knew that I was a little heavy going into to camp and I knew that I was going to have trouble getting the weight off. I knew it wasn’t going right. I don’t like to put pressure on myself. My job is to go out there and perform. I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself to perform great or anything. I’m just going to go do my job and that’s it.

Would you agree that it appears that both times you stepped up to a high level of opponent that you didn’t perform well?

GREEN: “Of course I can understand that. It only makes sense. I had my big opportunity and my performance was subpar, so I can completely understand that.

Glen, can you be specific on when you guys sparred?

JOHNSON: “I know that Allan and I sparred when I was getting ready for Roy Jones, but we sparred a number of times after that. I’ve gone into his camp and helped him out when he was getting ready for other fights as well.

GREEN: “Yeah, he helped me get ready for the (Edison) Miranda fight and I helped him get ready for the Roy Jones fight.

Is there anything that you guys take from the sparring sessions?

GREEN: “I’m an honest man. I learned a lot from Glen. A lot of days he gave me the business, a lot of days he just put it on me. I’m not ashamed to say that I learned a lot. That helped me get a lot better. I had my times, too, but for the most part he got the better of me. It was a good experience for me getting ready for the fight.

Allan, how is your weight now and what are some changes you’ve made after your last fight?

GREEN: “After the Ward fight got postponed because of knee injury I kind of fell into a funk and got real depressed and started eating a lot and not really training. I just started blowing up because I didn’t think that fight would happen. So I had to play catch up when I came into camp. I think I ended up having to lose 28 pounds in three weeks. I don’t know how I did it. But this time, I stuck to my diet – I’m a vegetarian – I stuck to my diet, ate the right things. This time when I wake up in the morning I weigh around 176 pounds.

Glen, how do you continue to perform at this level and not get disappointed with some questionable decision losses?

JOHNSON: “Well, I just don’t want to quit on myself. Everybody else is quitting on you, the last thing you want to do is quit on yourself. I always look at it that way: Every time I step in the ring and every time I’m training for a fight I always go at it 100 percent knowing that this could be my last chance, my last opportunity. I’m not one of those big market guys that will always get a chance and always get an opportunity, so I always give it 100 percent every time I step in there. That’s just the way I go about it. I just have to keep my spirit up because nobody else is going to do it for me. That’s the way I look at it and that’s the reason I perform the way I do.

Allan, do you see any type of scenario where Glen’s weight loss will be negative?

GREEN: It’s a possibility, but I’ve seen Glen work – he’s a hard worker. He’s not a very big light heavyweight anyway. As far as it affecting his performance, I can’t say that. I really don’t know.

Glen, you fought Bernard Hopkins 13 years ago. If I told you 13 years ago that you’d both still be active, what would you have said at the time?

JOHNSON: “I’d still be laughing just like I’m doing right now. Life is funny, man. You never say never. I remember when I first got introduced to boxing and George Foreman was the old guy in boxing. I was like ‘Man, when is this guy going to stop before he gets hurt?’ You know what, he did it and he did it well and he earned a lot of money. He had the last laugh at the end of the day. I really didn’t think that I would last this long in boxing. When I first started boxing all I wanted to make was $10,000 so I could make a down payment on a house. Once I got my first compliment I was hooked. I just kept trying harder to get another compliment and it turned into this career. I’m just thankful.

“I’m the most excited guy right now to be a part of the most prestigious tournament in boxing. I was happy when I heard Allan was a part of it. The fact that things happened the way things happened and now I’m a part of it, I’m happy for me. I’m just going out there and doing what I have to do to move on.

Allan, what would be your ideal scenario for this fight?

GREEN: “Just to win. Just to win and moving on in the tournament and getting my revenge against Andre Ward and winning the tournament. Just to win. Just an impressive win.

Lou, do you think there is a future for this tournament style?

DIBELLA: “I hope so. I think that there will always be challenges in the sport to a tournament because anything that takes any length of time presents difficulties. You have your legitimate difficulties with injuries but you also have your political difficulties. This tends to be a sport of immediate gratification. People don’t tend to look down the line; they look at the immediate payday. The tournament concept is a difficult undertaking. But if we’re not creative in boxing and we don’t take chances, we’re going to head even more into the shitter than we already are. I really, really honestly do believe that we have to take these types of chances; we have to go for this type of innovation.

“I applaud Ken Hershman for this concept and I think it is proving itself to work. It started out and you had Kessler as the favorite, then Abraham became the favorite and now Ward is the favorite. It kept changing. Had everyone stayed in I think obviously a lot of people would be happier. But I think still you have excitement on the horizon. You’re going to have two terrific fights coming up and I expect that the Semis will also be real good fights. I’m glad that they stuck with it. Look, anything that takes a long time in boxing is hard to do. We’ve got to be innovative. We’ve got to take chances even if those chances create challenges and difficulties.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

GREEN: “I’m just happy to be back in the ring. I have a lot of respect for Glen Johnson; he’s a great guy, great fight, great friend. I’m just looking to get in there, come out with a victory and move forward.

JOHNSON: “I’m ready. Weight is not an issue, we took care of that. I’m looking forward to going in the ring and giving the fans a good show. Somebody mentioned what would be a perfect scenario? I would say that Allan and I both get in the tournament – that would be my answer to that question. I love Allan Green, no doubt. It’s just a circumstance where we have to face each other in this tournament, but may the best man win. Do what you got to do and I will as well.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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